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School hallway/lockers file photo

More than 4,600 electronic door locks and 4,100 internet-based phones were installed at Madison schools over the summer as part of a $6.5 million safety upgrade.

When Madison students return to class Tuesday, they’ll be entering buildings with beefed-up security measures meant to increase safety.

Throughout the summer, Madison School District employees have remained busy swapping out traditional key locks for electronic locks, installing new security cameras and replacing hard-line phone systems with internet-based systems that bring in more functions.

The work is part of a district-wide security plan budgeted at $6.5 million and partially bankrolled by a grant program the state established last year in response to a mass shooting at a Florida high school.

While not yet fully finished, the district’s security upgrade includes the new locks and phone systems, putting in more than 400 additional cameras and adding window-hardening film to main entrances designed to slow down active shooters.

Chad Wiese, director of building services, said the district is 95% complete installing electronic door locks on exterior entrances, classrooms and other high-use spaces, such as libraries, offices and gyms.

The electronic locks are controlled by staff ID badges, which also needed to be upgraded to work with the locks, he said. As opposed to the old locks, the electronic hardware automatically locks people from coming in a room once the door is shut, unless they have a badge, Wiese said.

Across the district, more than 4,600 locks have been swapped out. The upgraded hardware still needs to be installed at Allis Elementary School and the joint building that houses Sherman Middle School and Shabazz City High School. New doors that work with the locks still need to be installed first, Wiese said.

Even though the district does not own the building housing Nuestro Mundo Community School, the dual-language immersion charter school is also slated to get electronic locks this semester, he said.

From the Capitol

In 2018, the Legislature passed a $100 million grant program to improve the security of public and private school buildings across the state, while also creating the Office of School Safety within the state Department of Justice to administer the grants and make sure schools meet certain requirements.

The money was awarded in two rounds — with 723 schools and school districts receiving first-round funding and 652 schools and school districts receiving second-round funding.

Madison got just shy of $1 million in the first round and about $1.5 million in the second round. The remainder of the district’s $6.5 million safety plan is covered by local funds.

“That essentially kick-started two separate, major projects,” Wiese said of the grant funding.

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Most of the first-round money went to swapping out the locks. The second-round funding went to “voice over internet phones.”

‘Ton of flexibility’

Approximately 4,100 new phones have been put in at all school sites, but the software to operate the phones will need to be installed throughout the fall semester, Wiese said.

The phones include new features, he said, such as being able to page an individual classroom through the PA system and send out immediate emergency notifications to families.

“This new phone system gives us a ton of flexibility and functionality because it is run over the internet,” Wiese said.

About 50% of the 450 new security cameras have been installed, he said.

The installation of the window-hardening film has yet to happen because the contractors who handle the work have been busy installing film at other school districts, he said.

Further training

With the passage of the state grants also came associated safety training for educators.

To receive money from the first round of state grants, school staff needed to complete training on trauma-informed care and trauma-sensitive schools before Saturday.

Karen Kepler, chief of school operations, said on Friday 99% of staff had verified they completed the training, adding she was confident the district would meet the deadline.

In addition to the required training, Kepler said the district worked this spring to standardize emergency response procedures, such as what to do when a child is missing or there is a threat to a building, and staff were trained on the procedures.

Teachers this fall will instruct students in an age-appropriate way on the standardized emergency response procedures before drills are done, Kepler said.

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